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Mississippi’s Lone Abortion Clinic Could Face New Regulations

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 04 Apr 2012 05:47pm | comments
Pro life activist

A bill tightening regulations on Mississippi's lone abortion clinic is headed to Governor Phil Bryant's desk.Mississippi Senators approved the measure by a vote of 45 to 6. Supporters say the new requirements could force the Jackson based clinic to close it doors. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports how abortion has played a central role in this year's legislative session.

All doctors performing abortions in Mississippi will soon have to be board certified OB-GYNs and have admitting privileges at a local hospital, if Governor Phil Bryant signs a recently passed bill into law.

Senator Dean Kirby of Pearl, the chair of the public health committee, says the goal is to protect women's health.

"I think women that do decide to have an abortion should have the very best care that they can get. Not with just the best doctor they can get, which I think would be OB-GYN, but also at a hospital. So I believe in that," Kirby said.

Supporters of the bill argue that the additional requirements could force the clinic to close its doors...and that is exactly the goal of Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.

"It has been seven years since we have got good pro-life legislation passed out of the Mississippi legislature. That is a bill that gives us a great opportunity to accomplish what our goal needs to be. Our goal needs to be to end all abortions in Mississippi. I believe the admitting privileges bill gives us the best chance to do that," Reeves said.

"We are going to do whatever it takes to remain open,"

That's Diane Derzis, who is one of the owners of Jackson Women's Health, the state's only abortion clinic.

Derzis says the new regulations are unnecessary and have nothing to do with women's health.

"We have a transfer agreement in Mississippi with a local hospital and one of our physicians already has admitting privileges. So these bills are not anything to do with women's health. They are to do with harassing the only abortion clinic legal in the state. To create barriers in access to the women of Mississippi," Derzis said.

Derzis declined to say which Mississippi hospital allows admitting privileges for its doctor or has the transfer agreement citing harassment the doctors have previously faced.

"These are mean spirited, viscous people who have no concerns about women's health. None. My doctors are talked. My doctors receive wanted posters. My doctors have a target on their back. So I am certainly not going to help them put that on there," Derzis said.

This vote is the culmination of several abortion related bills introduce this legislative session.

Early in the session a pro-life rally featured a number of law makers including the speaker of the House and Governor Phil Bryant.

"We are here about life. Now if any lives are threatened we should come forward. But those that are least among us, the child that cries out when no one hears. What we simply say is that we want Mississippi to be abortion free," Bryant said.

Other anti-abortion bills introduced this session include banning abortion at 20 weeks or if a doctor could detect a fetal heart beat, which could come as early as six weeks.

Pro-life advocates believed this would be the year they would see new abortion restrictions with Republicans controlling both the chambers and the Lt. Governor and Governor's seats for the first time in modern Mississippi history.

But nearly all of those bills have failed to survive the legislative process.

Terri Herring with the Pro Life America Network blames the Senate for failing to pass the bulk of the bills.

"The House leadership was flipped this year and we anticipated the passage of five pro life bills. The house passed five bills and now we are looking at the Senate and saying 'will the Senate become the chamber of death for pro-life bills?'" Herring said.

The author of the so-called heart beat bill says he will try to revive the issue before the session is over....possibly by attaching it as an amendment to another bill.

Abortion Clinic owner Diane Derzis says she will not back down in the face of more attempts to restrict abortion in Mississippi.

"I think we should be able to trust the women of Mississippi. I certainly do. And they shouldn't have to exist in a state where there is only one clinic. And they certainly shouldn't have to exist in a state where there is less then any," Derzis said.

Derzis says she is considering filing a law suit challenging the abortion regulations in Mississippi if it becomes law.

The bill is on its way to the Governor but there is no clear time frame on when he could sign it into law.



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